And breathe. The hectic but unfailingly enjoyable festive football is over for another year, as the football calendar now briefly turns its attention to the domestic cup competitions for a few days.
In Matchweek 17, Arsenal’s strong recent form continued with a resounding win over West Brom, Manchester City swept aside Chelsea, and Southampton earned a hard-won victory over Liverpool. Some eye-catching performances (and in some cases, under-performances) contributed to this latest week of surprising twists and turns in the title race, making the first Matchweek of 2021 a memorable one indeed.
Stars in Premier League – Gameweek 17
Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)
It was a battle between two of this season’s high flying teams when Manchester United took on Aston Villa at Old Trafford, with United narrowly coming out on top in a 2-1 triumph.
Despite being on the losing side, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez turned in another great performance in what is becoming an incredible season for the Argentine goalkeeper. Martinez made a number of good saves including a spectacular late stop from Bruno Fernandes’s long range effort.
Week after week, Martinez’s reputation and popularity amongst the Villa faithful continue to grow because of performances like this.
Defender: Kieran Tierney (Arsenal)
Despite coming up against icy and hostile conditions on their trip to the West Midlands, Arsenal extended their winning run to three matches after dispatching a lacklustre West Brom side.
Defender Kieran Tierney, who is certainly no stranger to these sorts of conditions, enjoyed one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt against the Baggies. dazzling in both defence and attack, Tierney scored a rare but spectacular solo goal to start the route and helped finish it with a pinpoint cross from which Alexandre Lacazette couldn’t miss.
There are some calls amongst the Arsenal fan base for Tierney to be made captain of the team, which will be hard to ignore if he continues to play like this.
Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Manchester City’s midfield hasn’t quite been bearing its usual creative fruit so far this season, but threw off its recent lethargy with a stunning performance at Stamford Bridge to sweep aside Chelsea.
All of City’s midfielders enjoyed stellar performances, but once again the talismanic Kevin De Bruyne was the pick of the bunch. The Belgian picked out Phil Foden with a pinpoint pass to make it 2-0 before scoring himself a few minutes later to effectively seal the result within the first 45 minutes.
This looked to be a real statement of intent from the Sky Blues and if they are to properly challenge for the title in these coming months, they’ll need to have De Bruyne performing like this on a regular basis.
Forward: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
After suffering a bit of a wobble during the festive period, Tottenham reminded everyone of their own title credentials with a convincing 3-0 victory over Leeds United.
Unsurprisingly, the duo of Kane and Son were at the heart of Tottenham’s efficiency, and Kane, in particular, returned to form in emphatic style. The England captain converted an early penalty before setting up his partner Son with an exceptional pass, showcasing once again his creative abilities in addition to his goal scoring prowess.
Kane has now reached the ten goal mark this season but also has an incredible 11 assists, highlighting his evolving role in Mourinho’s Tottenham project.
Manager: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
Matchweek 17 certainly wasn’t short of candidates for the manager of the week accolade, with Ralph Hasenhuttl, in particular, leading his Southampton side to an astonishing victory over the champions. However, this week the greatest credit should go to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
Coming to Stamford Bridge was a big task for City given their poor recent record there, and it was a test that they not only passed but did so with one of their finest performances of the season.
In particular, Guardiola’s decisions to use De Bruyne as a striker at times and to play Phil Foden both paid off brilliantly, and may well have given him a vital solution to City’s relative lack of goals in the league this season.